Most of the stars who had been anticipated to be 2021 free agents have long been off the market. But there are still a number of players who could contribute, and will surely get big contracts thrown their way. Here’s a list of 15 potential free agents that could be most pursued when the negotiating period begins Monday at 6 p.m.:
PG Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns)
The Suns’ 36-year-old point guard declined his $44 million player option for 2021-22, but the best another team can offer is a three-year, $123 million deal because of the “over-38’’ rule. The Knicks are one of the few clubs that have cap space to fit Paul. One of the NBA’s best-ever quarterbacks, Paul defies his age with leadership and a basketball IQ that is maybe tops in the league.
SF Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers)
Leonard also declined his player option ($36 million) for 2021-22. The Clippers couldn’t keep their star forward’s torn right ACL a secret forever this past season, as much as they tried. Leonard didn’t have surgery until July 14 — exactly a month after he last played. Perhaps that’s an indication he expects to miss next season anyway and will opt into the final year of his contract. That would be a blessing for the Knicks, who may still have cap space in 2022. Leonard has northern New Jersey ties with his notorious Uncle Dennis.
PF John Collins (Atlanta Hawks)
The Hawks just added power forward Tristan Thompson in a trade perhaps with the fear Collins will get a max offer he can’t refuse. Other teams can offer the athletic “stretch-4” power forward a deal starting at $28 million. Collins was certainly solid in the playoffs, but the Hawks seem restrained. The Spurs might be the one team with cap space willing to go full tilt for the 23-year-old, high-flying Collins. Otherwise, Collins will wind up back in Atlanta for something less than his four-year, $125 million max.
PG Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
The Raptors passed up point guard Jalen Suggs at No. 4 in the draft to sweep up small forward Scott Barnes. Maybe Toronto is planning to try to keep Lowry, a Knicks target. But word is the Mavericks, Pelicans, Heat and Lowry’s hometown 76ers might be higher on his list. The Knicks can give Lowry a balloon offer, maybe even a one-year deal starting at $39 million.
SF/SG Duncan Robinson (Miami Heat)
Robinson, who began his college career as a star at Division III Williams College before transferring to Michigan, has come into the NBA at the exact right time to make him a rich man. He’s not very athletic, but 3-point specialists are at a premium. That is all Robinson does, and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau loves how he moves without the ball to free himself. Robinson has a career true shooting percentage of 65.1 — which is an NBA high. That figure combines 2-point shots and 3s. Maybe Robinson will get Joe Harris money (four years, $72 million). Miami can go over the cap to re-sign him — and should.
PG Lonzo Ball (New Orleans Pelicans)
While Ball made a leap as an outside shooter this season, the Pelicans finished 31-41 and Ball hasn’t won since his one season at UCLA. Still he’s just 23 years old, his father, LaVar, has been mostly quiet and he’s one of the few true pass-first point guards in the CP3 model. The Knicks have him on their list and the Pelicans don’t appear eager to match an offer starting at $20 million. The Bulls, however, had serious talks for Ball at the trade deadline and look to be heavy favorites.
PG/SG Devonte’ Graham (Charlotte Hornets)
He’s an under-the-radar scorer (14.8 ppg) — part of a crowded back court with Terry Rozier and LaMelo Ball. But he’s a good shotmaker, even if he made just 37.7 percent overall (37.5 from 3). He is just 26 and getting better. He earned just $4 million last season so he’s looking to get paid. But he’s a restricted free agent and the Hornets can match.
SG Norman Powell (Portland Trail Blazers)
The Raptors traded Powell to Portland at the deadline, fearing what he might command in free agency. The Knicks were interested, but didn’t want him as a rental. Thibodeau loves the two-way off guard. A source said the Pacers should have interest. Powell averaged 18.6 points on 41.1 percent shooting from 3-point range last season. But Portland may soon be in full rebuilding mode if they have to trade Damian Lillard.
SG DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs)
His best years are behind him, but he’s a strong veteran presence who can score in double figures as an old-school mid-range jump-shooter. His 3-point shooting is a little lacking and he’s never been known for his defense. He averaged 21.6 points last season, shot 49.5 percent overall but just 25.7 percent from 3. And he’s 32.
PG Mike Conley (Utah Jazz)
The one point guard who hasn’t been much linked to the Knicks, but he’s still got game at age 34. The lefty playmaker actually was named to the All-Star team last season, but got hurt in the playoffs. The Knicks believe he’s likely staying put with the Jazz.
PG Dennis Schroder (Los Angeles Lakers)
With Russell Westbrook in the building, it’s doubtful the Lakers will bring Schroder back. He also turned down an extension offer for $80 million during the 2020-21 season. He’s a solid defender and playmaker, and the Knicks like him even if he shot just 33.5 percent from 3. The Knicks can offer him more than $20 million per and just might after he averaged 15.4 points and 5.8 assists as a starter.
PG Derrick Rose (New Yor Knicks)
The former 2011 MVP did everything that could have been asked of him since he was traded from Detroit to the Knicks in February. The Knicks made the playoffs because of Rose, who now would prefer a long-term deal to stop his recent vagabond existence. The Knicks can go over the cap to sign him, but the Bulls have their eye on the homegrown West Sider.
SG/SF Evan Fournier (Boston Celtics)
The Frenchman is helping himself in Tokyo, leading France to the Olympic quarterfinals and an upset over Team USA in which he dominated. He always has been a sleek scorer. The Celtics traded for Fournier at the deadline, but the Knicks also were interested. Fournier will turn 29 in October. It would seem odd for the Celtics to let Fournier go to an Atlantic Division rival. Fournier will likely make a deal starting at least at $17 million. That’s what he made last season. Knicks general manager Scott Perry traded for Fournier when he worked for the Magic.
PG Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets)
The Nets don’t want to pay him the max-like contract he’s seeking. They should have enough without Dinwiddie, who has fans within the Knicks brain trust. He’s a Southern California guy and the Clippers reportedly have interest. Dinwiddie is on record saying he deserved a deal of five years, $125 million. Dinwiddie has trolled the Knicks on social media. What better payback to the Nets would it be, however, to move him across the East River and let him torment Kyrie Irving?
SF Kelly Oubre (Golden State Warriors)
Oubre was part of the Suns’ deal that netted them Paul and he started for Golden State last season. But with Klay Thompson returning, Oubre will be back to the bench if he re-signs and prefers a larger role elsewhere. Dallas and the Knicks have made inquiries, as he’s intriguing with his versatility and athleticism.